Adams vs. Jefferson: The Birth of Negative Campaigning in the U.S.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Kat Long
Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Kat Long

Negative campaigning in the United States can be traced back to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Back in 1776, the dynamic duo combined powers to help claim America's independence, and they had nothing but love and respect for one another. But by 1800, party politics had so distanced the pair that, for the first and last time in U.S. history, a president found himself running against his VP.

Things got ugly fast. Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward. Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind."

JEFFERSON HIRES A HATCHET MAN

Back then, presidential candidates didn't actively campaign. In fact, Adams and Jefferson spent much of the election season at their respective homes in Massachusetts and Virginia. But the key difference between the two politicians was that Jefferson hired a hatchet man named James Callendar to do his smearing for him. Adams, on the other hand, considered himself above such tactics. To Jefferson's credit, Callendar proved incredibly effective, convincing many Americans that Adams desperately wanted to attack France. Although the claim was completely untrue, voters bought it, and Jefferson won the election.

PLAYING THE SALLY HEMINGS CARD

Jefferson paid a price for his dirty campaign tactics, though. Callendar served jail time for the slander he wrote about Adams, and when he emerged from prison in 1801, he felt Jefferson still owed him. After Jefferson did little to appease him, Callendar broke a story in 1802 that had only been a rumor until then—that the President was having an affair with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. In a series of articles, Callendar claimed that Jefferson had lived with Hemings in France and that she had given birth to five of his children. The story plagued Jefferson for the rest of his career. And although generations of historians shrugged off the story as part of Callendar's propaganda, DNA testing in 1998 showed a link between Hemings' descendants and the Jefferson family.

Just as truth persists, however, so does friendship. Twelve years after the vicious election of 1800, Adams and Jefferson began writing letters to each other and became friends again. They remained pen pals for the rest of their lives and passed away on the same day, July 4, 1826. It was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Kerwin Swint is a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University and the author of Mudslingers: The 25 Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.

15 Memorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes for Her 86th Birthday

Getty Images
Getty Images

Supreme Court justice, feminist, and all-around badass Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 86 years old today. Let's celebrate with some inspiring quotes. Happy birthday RBG!

1. On her mother

"My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent. The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the '40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S."

— via ACLU

2. On turning rejection into opportunity

“You think about what would have happened ... Suppose I had gotten a job as a permanent associate. Probably I would have climbed up the ladder and today I would be a retired partner. So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune.”

— In conversation with Makers

3. On female Supreme Court Justices

"[W]hen I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that."

— In an interview with 10th Circuit Bench & Bar Conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder, via CBS News

4. On dissenting opinions

"Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, ‘my colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way,’ but the greatest dissents do become court opinions."

— From an interview on Live with Bill Maher

5. On criticism and not getting a majority vote

"I’m dejected, but only momentarily, when I can’t get the fifth vote for something I think is very important. But then you go on to the next challenge and you give it your all. You know that these important issues are not going to go away. They are going to come back again and again. There’ll be another time, another day."

— via The Record [PDF]

6. On having it all

"You can't have it all, all at once. Who—man or woman—has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough. And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it."

— From an interview with Katie Couric

7. On discrimination

"I ... try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches, how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, color of their skin, whether they’re men or women."

— From an interview with MSNBC

8. On gender equality

"Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation."

— via The Record [PDF]

9. On feminism

"Feminism … I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, 'Free to be You and Me.' Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent."

— In an interview with Makers

10. ON her fellow Supreme Court Justices

"We care about this institution more than our individual egos and we are all devoted to keeping the Supreme Court in the place that it is, as a co-equal third branch of government and I think a model for the world in the collegiality and independence of judges."

— In an interview with C-Span

11. On the 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling

"[J]ustices continue to think and can change. I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow."

— From an interview with Katie Couric

12. On those Notorious RBG T-shirts

"I think a law clerk told me about this Tumblr and also explained to me what Notorious RBG was a parody on. And now my grandchildren love it and I try to keep abreast of the latest that’s on the tumblr. … [I]n fact I think I gave you a Notorious RBG [T-shirts]. I have quite a large supply."

— In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg

13. On being an internet sensation

"My grandchildren love it. At my advanced age—I’m now an octogenarian—I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who want to take my picture."

— From an interview with the New Republic

14. On how she'd like to be remembered

"Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid."

— From an interview with MSNBC

15. On retirement

"Now I happen to be the oldest. But John Paul Stevens didn’t step down until he was 90."

— From an interview with The New York Times

11 People You Didn't Know Were Girl Scouts

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

If you participated in your local Girl Scout chapter when you were younger, you're in good company. Sixty-four percent of women in civic, corporate, and political leadership roles in the U.S. are alumnae of the American institution. In honor of Girl Scouts Day on March 12, here are some famous women that got their start as Girl Scouts.

1. Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning in Girl Scout uniform.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Between starring in blockbuster films and going to school, Dakota Fanning found time to join the Girl Scouts. She joined into the organization in 2005 at age 11—prior to donning her Junior uniform, she had already been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in I Am Sam (2001), making her the youngest-ever SAG nominee.

2. Michelle Obama

Barack and Michelle Obama camping with Girl Scouts.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former First Lady Michelle Obama first joined the Girl Scouts when growing up Chicago. Years later, she served as the organization's Honorary National President, a position held by every First Lady since Lou Henry Hoover. Michelle also hosted the first-ever Girl Scout campout on the White House's south lawn during the Obama presidency.

3. Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In addition to being a Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds was also a legend among Girl Scouts. She earned 42 badges over her scouting career and said that she wanted to live to become the world's oldest Girl Scout. Her scouting experience came in handy when she used the time-step dance moves she learned at Girl Scout camp in Singin' in the Rain (1952). When she was older, she served as the leader of her daughter Carrie Fisher's Girl Scout troop.

4. Venus Williams

Venus Williams.
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Before she was a world-famous tennis star, Venus Williams was a member of her local Girl Scout troop in Compton, California. She's still partial to Thin Mints as an adult.

5. Lucille Ball

Portrait of Lucille Ball.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The I Love Lucy star and producer grew up reciting the Girl Scout pledge with her troop near Celoron, New York.

6. Sally Ride

Sally Ride in space.
National Archives at College Park

Sally Ride's involvement with the Girl Scouts didn't end with childhood. After retiring from NASA in 1987, America's first woman in space co-founded Camp CEO, where successful adult women mentor high school-aged Girl Scouts.

7. Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift posing for photos.
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Taylor Swift's childhood in Pennsylvania included being a Girl Scout. The pop star must have a soft spot for organization: In 2018, she gifted local Girl Scout troops in New Jersey and Connecticut free tickets to her tour.

8. Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling talking on stage.
Presley Ann/Getty Images for EMILY'S List

Being a Girl Scout prepared Lisa Ling for life as a journalist. "Girl Scouts had a tremendous impact on helping me to build self confidence," Ling said ahead of addressing a Girl Scout troop in Oklahoma in 2012. "It is a terrific organization for girls, and one that promotes the right things."

9. Hillary Clinton

Hilary Clinton waving.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton is another former First Lady who learned leadership and teamwork skills in the Girl Scouts. The girl who would grow up to become first female presidential nominee of a major party joined the organization while living in suburban Illinois.

10. Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Martha Stewart probably wasn't baking too many chiffon cakes as a Girl Scout, but her time with her Nutley, New Jersey, troop taught her other valuable lessons, like a "love of the outdoors, camaraderie and friendship," she told ABC News. She gave back to the organization later in life when she invited a New Jersey troop onto her show for the Girl Scouts' 100-year anniversary.

11. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Currently the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle was an all-American Girl Scout when she was younger. The Girl Scouts declared her to be first Girl Scout Princess following her royal wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.

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